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From the Orphan Dreamer Saga series , Vol. 4

A lengthy but absorbing tale steeped in profundity.

Awards & Accolades

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A girl capable of time travel attempts to prevent Armageddon in this fourth installment of Brown’s eschatological fantasy saga.

It’s 1998, and 16-year-old Daniela Rose Cavanaugh is the Orphan Dreamer. She’s destined to use her time-traveling Glass Tattoo to try rescuing humans from a pandemic, the precursor to Armageddon on Earth. In this novel’s concurrent narrative, set in the present day, humanity faces multiple threats, from Covid-20 to an “invisible planet” set to collide with Earth in less than a year. But Covid-20 may be a “trial run” for a deadlier pandemic that fallen angel Nomed has long been planning. Daniela’s mission to avert Armageddon involves traveling to 575 B.C.E. to find Yahweh’s prophet Ezekiel and solve the mystery of the enigmatic Skeleton Key. At the same time, she dreams of her “oily boy,” teen Cillian Finn, who’s an enslaved person in India. She prays to Yahweh, asking for an angel to help Cillian, though she’s still unsure if the boy is the prophesied Antichrist—perhaps the most discernible sign of humanity’s end. With the companionship of her best friend and assistance from a powerful angel, Daniela hopes to save the world. Despite the time-hopping narrative, Brown’s epic tale is easy to follow. Not only do chapter headers clarify the time period and locale, but the story often stays in one era for prolonged narrative stretches. Characters spend much of the story discussing everything from religions to the racism that Daniela, as a brown girl, and others have endured. They also repeatedly, sometimes excessively, address certain topics, like who or what are the Nephilim, the human/fallen angel hybrids eagerly anticipating Armageddon. But Brown’s smart, incisive writing ensures the measured story avoids lulls with many surprises.

A lengthy but absorbing tale steeped in profundity. (author’s notes, dedications, acknowledgements, author bio)

Pub Date: April 27, 2021


Page Count: 655

Publisher: J. Nell Brown, LLC

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020


An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021


From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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